For the most part, Tokyo’s coffee culture has a decidedly plastic feel to it. Lots of big chain cafes, serving tasty (if somewhat pedestrian) snacks, laminate tables, and pre-packaged everything.
Of course Japan is a tea nation, so coffee, while making a fair showing, is not something the country is famous for. Tokyo’s micro-chain, Yanaka Coffee, is a refreshing change from the usual plastic tray-gum-syrup experience.
I stumbled upon Yanaka Coffee while searching for the “heated public pool” in Kita-Senju. Located on a charming shotengai (shopping street, 商店街), Yanaka Coffee’s rustic exterior and heaping barrels of beans immediately caught my eye.
The ambience immediately struck me of the kind of coffee house you’d find in San Francisco or Portland. It’s a small, discreet shop with just a few seats, but is quiet, non-smoking, and anti-cell phone. A perfect nook for reading, drawing, or writing.
Beans are sold in 100g quantities, then roasted and ground to your specifications. They offer straight and blended beans from everywhere: Columbia, Brazil, Peru, the Dominican Republic. I like dark coffee, so I asked for a dark roast (they have a 1-10 scale- I went with a 9) and the barista selected an Indonesian bean and told me it would take about ten minutes to roast and grind for my paper-drip rig at home.
While I waited, I was served complimentary samples of the both the hot and iced daily blends from the Dominican. Rich, earthy, and very freshly roasted. 200 grams is normally 1050 yen, but if you’re local, you can sign up for a point card and immediately get 300 yen off (30% off just like that?). They can even deliver bean bags to your place. And if you’re just visiting, Yanaka offers worldwide shipping and a variety of gift sets.
They also offer a sweets set menu with lovely pastries and cakes– the ubiquitous hermetically sealed brownies were nowhere to be found. A cup of coffee runs about 240 yen and the sets are under 700 yen. So yum.
Free samples, instant discounts, and chill coffee house vibe. I think I’ve found my new office space. I never did find that pool.
24 locations in Tokyo
Hours: 11:00am -20:00